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Iraqi Intelligence Chief Retired Just Before Major Blasts

A damaged bridge following a massive explosion near the Finance Ministry in Baghdad on August 19.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- The head of one of Iraq's main intelligence services went into retirement days before huge bombings in Baghdad killed almost 100 people in the deadliest day of violence this year, officials said.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's dissatisfaction with Iraq's security services is well known, but officials said the decision on Mohammed al-Shehwani, the head of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, was taken because he had reached retirement age.

"A cabinet decision was made to retire Mohammed Abdullah al-Shehwani because of his age, and because he has headed the department for six years, and according to military rules commanders should change every three years," said Adel Berwari, a member of parliament's security and defense committee.

Another source close to Maliki's office, who declined to be named, confirmed the information.

There are several different intelligence services in Iraq, and rivalry and a lack of coordination between them has been blamed for major security lapses.

The agency headed by Shehwani was created in 2004, by the U.S. administrators who ran Iraq after the invasion, and supported by the U.S. military.

But security experts say it has been sidelined by many Iraqi government officials because it still includes many Sunni intelligence officers who worked under Saddam Hussein.

Iraq has been rocked by a string of major bomb attacks in the past two months, shattering confidence in Iraqi forces and harming Maliki's chances in upcoming January polls, which he is expected to contest on a promise of improved security.

The attacks also highlight inadequacies in Iraqi forces after U.S. combat troops withdraw from urban centers in June, thrusting Iraqi troops into the lead role.

A major deficiency is an apparent lack of good intelligence on insurgent networks. Experts also say Iraqi security forces need to carry out more operations to hunt down insurgents in order to put so much pressure on their networks that they do not have time or opportunity to plan and carry out attacks.